Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lovin' Copyright

Copyright is one of those things we as educators wish that we could forget. Unfortunately, teaching students about copyright is critical, but more importantly we need to be good models. After leading some professional development on the topic of copyright and plagiarism today, I was inspired to put some of my ideas, along with the ideas of a few others, on "paper." This may seem odd, but to be honest I like talking about copyright. While I am sure that I have not always been the best steward of following copyright, I have always tried to educate and improve my own practice.

Today's session on copyright was brief but based on the reviews just enough to whet the appetites of teachers without being overwhelming. And at this time of year, that is critical. The pre-readings below were used in a workshop that was created by some others that I work with, and I definitely wanted to include them in this workshop as they were very thought provoking. Be sure to check out the articles:

The first article really inspired my approach to today's workshop. As teachers, many of us have used those threats about copyright. Is this really a successful method? I don't think so, primarily because we only seem to make this an issue in regards to research papers. How many times have media coordinators witnessed teachers who assigned projects like slide shows or movies that did not require citations? Come research paper time there is a definite shift in attitude. No wonder students don't have a true understanding on the value of citing sources. What about teacher presentations? Those usually lack citations as well. The concerns of the teachers I worked with today varied. Some were unaware that they needed to cite Google Images (of course this also required the explanation that those images are not actually owned by Google) and others were concerned by the thought of having to cite all their resources. Some felt that this just prohibited them from doing their jobs and many more such concerns. Now, imagine how students feel....

I also introduced the group to Creative Commons. Throughout the day I only had two teachers who were familiar with Creative Commons. To give a brief overview of this approach to copyright I shared the video Wanna Work Together? So teachers could explore Creative Commons more at their leisure, I also provided a link to Steven Anderson's All About Creative Commons and Copyright LiveBinder. At this point, teachers were encouraged to license their own works and use those resources provided by Creative Commons. I also encouraged teachers to teach students to license their own work. After talking to my husband about my day, I decided that maybe lessons on copyright shouldn't start with that research paper. We need to approach it positively as suggested in the reading. The first lesson on copyright should take the original work of the student and walk them through the licensing process using Creative Commons. After that, students are more likely to understand why it is important to give credit where credit is due. Have a serious conversation about how it would make them feel if someone tried to take credit for their work. If you have your own personal story about someone stealing your work (which I do), share it. Students begin to understand the value of copyright more when they realize it can impact them and people they know. 

We also spent some time discussing citations. I don't know how the teachers in this school teach research, but I wanted to emphasize in this day and age, we don't have to teach students to write out citations. There are citation makers that take the guess work out of that process for students. Energy is better spent elsewhere. One of my favorite apps is the EasyBib app. It makes it so easy to just scan the ISBN and get the citation that can then be emailed to you. One of my former students liked the app so much that she went home and scanned books for fun (realize results may vary). 

Recently, my colleague, Jennifer LaGarde, shared this great video about the Google Research feature. Can I just say WOW!

I don't know that I would teach students to write their research papers from Google Docs in this way. However, I do think I would teach students to take notes using this feature. No matter how many times you tell students to record the citation information before taking notes, most don't do it. This just makes things frustrating for everyone. By using the Google Research tool, you can eliminate this problem.

Who knew I could write this much about copyright? I am not an expert, but I do feel passionately about this topic. I do believe that we need to empower students to understand copyright, and we need to be models of what we expect. If we don't take it seriously, how can we expect students to do so?


  1. Doing a PD in June -->Google: The Be All, End All of Research, so this will also come in handy with that "Google" video LOL. You rock my PLN all the time!!

  2. I love the idea of teaching this before the research paper. This is a great example of how education has shifted because students access and present information all the time - not just on one paper a year. We need to equip them with the tools to do it responsibly. Thanks for the post!